Connections That Thrive on (and off) the Web

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Interesting article by Jeff Jarvis on The Guardian today about social networking and how the notion of friendship is changing on the Web. Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York, is right — in today’s world of online technology, it’s easier, faster and simpler to stay in touch with friends than it was in the past. He talks at length about Facebook, saying, “With 50 million active users, that’s a lifetime value of $300 per friend – and those friendships will have long lives.”

Sometimes I feel as though it’s a cop-out to just send someone a Facebook message and consider it “keeping in touch,” but a wall post beats nothing at all. And sometimes the very nature of searching Facebook – looking at people’s pictures, studying the applications on their Facebook profile, reading their status is enough. Interacting with these different elements makes you feel connected to others, as though you’re keeping in touch with their lives and their interests, even without ever really talking to them.

The same can be said for other social networking sites like Twitter and Knowing what people are doing, even if it’s only through a 140-character blurb on Twitter, makes me feel more in-tune with their lives. Reading others’ pages, though less interactive, still makes me feel as though I am connected through the stories, articles and multimedia projects that others I know have found interesting lately.

I’ve often thought, too, about how certain objects can make you feel closer to others. Take books, for example. If someone recommends a book to me and I read it, I can pick out the points in the book that I know the other person would like. The words, and the images they evoke, connect me. When I hear music that friends like, I listen to the music for company. Even listening to the radio makes me feel connected, more so than if I’m just listening to music on a CD (no, I don’t have an iPod), because I know others are listening to the same thing at the same time.

Does anyone else feel this way? How do you use social networking, books, music, etc., to connect to the world around you?